Edition 60: October 2013
Citrus Essential Oils
Citrus delights the senses
Natural scent embedded in the skin
PERHAPS you can recall a time when you walked into a room just after someone peeled a fresh mandarin or grapefruit, and the fresh citrus scent reached your nostrils, prompting you to breathe more deeply to imbibe and revel in its uplifting and invigorating aroma.
This is the natural process of aromatherapy unfolding in everyday life.
What has actually happened in the peeling process is the small oil sacks that are embedded in the peel, burst upon pressure from the fingers and release their volatile essential oils which evaporate readily into the air, making themselves available to be picked up by our sensitive olfactory system.
Salvaging the waste of citrus fruits
Citrus essential oils are the extracts of grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges and tangerines.
Their distinct aroma is instantly recognisable as the product from citrus fruits.
They are extracted from the part of the fruit we usually discard by using two common methods; traditionally they were cold-pressed from the peel of the fruit and they still are, although sometimes they are steam distilled similar to other essential oils.
It can take approximately 3,000 lemons to produce one kilogram of oil. Citrus oils are probably the least expensive essential oils to buy, however it is advisable to use only pure essential oils for their therapeutic qualities.
The essential oils from citrus fruits have a wide range of application in the field of aromatherapy. They provide some of the most popular fragrances in natural skin, bath, and body care products where they add an uplifting and refreshing quality that most people find very pleasant.
The top notes in perfumery
Citrus oils are usually the most volatile of the essential oils, which means they are very diffusive and immediately perceptible.
For perfumery they are the top notes that provide the piquant introduction to elevate a perfume, enhancing its personality and creating both sweet and tart citrus fragrance. Some citrus oils will create a bridge to the middle note, with slightly more staying power that also continues to contribute to the fragrance of a product.
When used in combination with other essential oils they do become a permanent part of the blend and will continue to impact upon the fragrance, with the key being in the ratio of top, middle, and base notes.
Adding zest to your blends
A good rule of thumb is: one part base note to three middle notes to two top notes. That said, there are no fixed rules; it is more rewarding to create an essential oil blend that lifts off, announces itself clearly and wears smoothly and enduringly.
Citrus oils blend beautifully with other citruses and florals. They keep harmonious company with cypress, sandalwood, juniper, black pepper, ginger, clary sage, rosemary and frankincense.
The absolute monarchy of rose and jasmine enjoy the benefits of the citrus oils as their reliable minions.
Citruses enliven skin: The citruses lend well to natural skin care due to the antioxidant and vitamin C properties.
A citrus addition to a blend can improve circulatory function, which tends to tone dull, tired skin.
They contain citrus bioflavonoids, which augment microcirculation into deep capillary beds to enhance tissue oxygenation.
They are naturally cleansing and detoxifying, so use them in body scrubs and exfoliating formulae. They contribute admirably to blends designed to alleviate stretch marks.
Combat infection by adding them to antiseptic washes to benefit from their potent anti-microbial action that is effective against many pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Stimulate blood, liver, digestion and immunity: Regular use of the citruses improves cardiovascular function lowering blood cholesterol, balancing blood sugar content and detoxifying a sluggish liver.
They help to neutralise acid in your body and stimulate the immune system to fight infections. The body thus responds more effectively to stress and recovers easily from exercise.
They can be useful in blends applied to treat varicose veins and are almost always diuretic, assisting the body to shed excess fluid and lymphatic drainage. Use them in blends combined with juniper and cypress to alleviate cellulite and fluid retention.
Citrus oils improve digestion due to their cleansing, tonic effects. Always include one in a tummy settling massage blend to ease bloat, distension, wind and indigestion.
The smiley fruit oils
Citruses are so familiar and joyful that they belong in every home as overall nerve tonics, helping us to find more optimism and laughter in life.
They muster in us an inner radiance to combat the fear of the unknown by removing self-doubt and stagnant subtle energies.
Having successfully transformed light into a crystal clear scent, citrus essential oils are among the most uplifting and elevating of all the anti-depressant oils that truly invoke the senses, invigorating mind and body with their mood-enhancing qualities.
This could be due to their ability to boost serotonin production, and boosting energy levels. In fact, they can be slightly hypnotic - which helps to switch off an overactive mind and promote deeper relaxation.
They spring clean the mind shedding light when it has become foggy and confused.
A precautionary note
Citrus Essential Oils should always be diluted into some medium carrier oil/salts so that they dissolve into the bath water.
Citrus oils can cause photosensitivity on your skin, this means that you should not apply them to your skin and expose it to direct sunlight. It is wise to cover the skin if citrus oils are a part of a blend that you are wearing.
Citrus oils contain a constituent called fuoro coumarins that impart the photosensitising properties, which tend to magnify the suns rays on the skin making it more sensitive and increasing the risk of sun damage. The level of photosensitivity varies from essential oil to essential oil.
Why do peels produce photosensitising oils?
The plant creates fuoro coumarins in the fruits to attract, and magnify, the sunlight which they need to ripen.
A fully ripened fruit will have much less of the coumarins than one that is under-ripe so an easy way to gauge this is through the color of the fruit.
All fruit ripens from green to red, with green being the most under-ripe and red being the ripest.
Oils that are pressed from fruits that are green-yellow are fully loaded with fuoro coumarins and are highly photo sensitising such as bergamot, lime and lemon. Fruit that is pressed from fruits that are orange-red tend to be much lower in fuoro coumarins and are, as a result, much less photo-sensitising such as mandarin and grapefruit, especially the reds.
Don’t save them for a rainy day
The citrus oils probably have the shortest shelf life of all essential oils because of their highly volatile nature.
Make sure that you use up your citrus oils so as not to allow oxidation to occur; you will know by the less vibrant, slightly rancid smell that may develop. Fortunately it is very easy to use them swiftly as they are safe and such a delight to use in myriad ways for bodily health and well being.
The gifts of fruits
Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
Scent: Bright, sweet, sharp and refreshing
Uplifting, grapefruit oil has worthy anti-depressant ability, particularly with mood swings and relieving anxiety. Its main actions are diuretic, stimulant and cleansing for the kidneys, lymphatic and vascular systems. Grapefruit oil is a great complement to any weight reduction plan, being both detoxifying and a lymphatic stimulant. May help to ease digestive discomforts, especially during pregnancy.
Use grapefruit in a burner to help relieve migraines, jetlag and tiredness; this will act as a general freshener and disinfectant in the home.
Lemon (Citrus limon)
Scent: Fresh, zingy and citrusy
Lemon oil has powerful antiseptic, antibacterial and immune stimulating properties. Research has shown that lemon oil can kill meningococcal bacteria in 15 minutes, typhoid bacilli in one hour, Staphylococcus Aureus in two hours and Pneumococcal bacteria in three hours.
Its adaptogenic qualities support and balance the body's natural stress response.
Lemon oil is excellent for cleaning bathroom and kitchen surfaces, or even to sterilise the hands after handling money or public conveniences. You can make up a spray bottle filled with water and just add 20-30 drops of lemon essential oil. Use lemon often for its purifying, invigorating and uplifting, properties to ward off depression.
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)
Scent: Bitter-sweet, tart, lively and fresh
Lime is great for infections and sore throats. It has a yummy fragrance that is refreshing and stimulating, so it’s great if one is feeling exhausted or listless and it cools feverish conditions. Lime is a digestive stimulant that encourages appetite. It is refreshing and restorative in skin toners and helps stem bleeding from cuts and wounds.
Try adding a few drops to add zest to cool summer drinks and cocktails. It has a toning astringent action on greasy skin. Lime oil is an effective aid in removing gum, oil and grease spots.
Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
Scent: Delicately sweet, fruity, tangy with floral undertones.
As mandarin oil is so gentle, it is quite suitable for children and pregnant women. When combined with jasmine, lavender, sandalwood or frankincense, it can assist with stretch marks. It may be used for several skin problems such as oily skin, scars and spots. It is a safe remedy for indigestion, hiccups, dyspepsia and fluid retention. It also helps expel gas.
Its cheery and uplifting helps to mitigate the effects of stress on the body and mind. Indicated for PMT depression and insomnia.
Orange (Citrus sinensis)
Scent: Sweet, warm and zesty citrus smell
Promote joy and happiness by diffusing orange oil in the home, especially where children play as kids love the orange smell. It is very relaxing and lifts jaded spirits effectively. Add a few drops to water to not only purify it but also add some cheer. Add to cosmetic preparations to brighten dull and oily complexions.
Orange essential oil is powerfully anti-spasmodic, which makes it an excellent digestive and carminative that helps remove gas from the intestines. (Due to the citrus bioflavonoids that help relax the abdominal wall).
Being high in limonene, which research shows can prevent cancer, orange exerts anti-tumoral and anti-coagulant properties. Add orange oil to massage blends to enhance circulation in the muscular system and assist people with fluid retention. This oil is a natural diuretic, promoting the release of excess uric acid, bile, pollutants and water through urination.
Tangerine (Citrus nobilis)
Scent: Light, sweet, and inviting citrus with a tang.
Similar to orange, tangerine oil is calming. Try massaging orange blended with lavender into your feet if you’re suffering from sleeplessness or grief, anger or shock. Include it in baby, children’s or pregnancy blends for its soothing safe action on skin and temperament.
Tangerine is a useful skin tonic bringing colour back to pale skins and reducing scar tissue.
It’s a nice oil to use as flavouring with water, try adding a drop of tangerine oil with a drop of spearmint oil to a jug of water to freshen and add a flavour spark.
Tangerine oil helps to stimulate drainage in the lymphatic system. If you are suffering from fluid retention (oedema) a few drops of orange oil added to an equal part of cypress essential oil and rubbed on the feet and legs can help. This will assuage tired and aching legs as it increases peripheral circulation.